There is nothing Islamic or religious, with either of these books, but I wanted to review them, as the author Hena Khan, who has brought such lovely picture books to our book shelves (Night of the Moon, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets), inspiring elementary books to the mainstream (Amina’s Voice, On Point, Power Forward), and who showed Curious George what Ramadan is all about, is Muslim. She has done a tremendous job of blending culture and religion with everyday life making her stories relatable and found on bookshelves across America. She also has written books that are just good books void of any religion and culture, that hopefully they remind our youth that you can write books about anything, appeal to everyone, and be successful as well.
Both books are like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that I remember from the 1980s except these are much better written, and I think I might have learned facts about Mars, space travel, and the Amazon from them, without even realizing it. Aimed at 3rd to 5th graders, these two books were checked out from the library and read countless times by my kids and myself alike. They are entertaining and not easy to predict. It is worth noting that while I did make it the entire length of the Amazon, after four tries I gave up trying to survive the journey to Mars and back.
In both books the cast of teammates is given at the beginning and shows a good diversity of men and women from all over the world with a variety of skills and backgrounds to be on the expedition. The books then give the set up of where you are going, and how you got chosen. You then are advised to flip to the back of the book to look through the files and notes that will give you knowledge about what you will encounter. These pages are in full color and are in diary, note style. The adventure then begins and you make choices that lead you down different paths to success, or demise, it is up to you to decide how to survive.
WHY I LIKE THEM:
I love that you learn while making decisions and attempting to make the story continue. The books are fun and most of the choices aren’t obvious, naturally a few are, but they are well done. There are comic book style pictures sprinkled throughout and regular black and white illustrations on many of the pages. I particularly liked that the kids read them more than once and learned a bit about space travel, mars, what would be needed to set up a colony, the Amazon, various animals, and survival skills in the rain forest.
You might get burned up, or bitten by a snake, but nothing too graphic, as you are the reader and obviously know it isn’t real.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
These books wouldn’t work as book club selections, but I think 3rd and 4th grade classrooms and school libraries would benefit from having these fun books on hand. Struggling readers will enjoy the fast pace and the number of pages (about 200 each), irregardless of if they are read or not, and advanced readers will enjoy trying again and again to reach the successful end.